Sometimes it is actually hard not to laugh out loud at some of North Korea’s stunts. That is because North Korea sometimes seems silly. It starts right at the top. As a leader and 'Dictator for Life', we have "Dear Leader" Kim Jong-Il. He is a man with a sick fascination for Friday the 13th and Rambo movies, Elizabeth Taylor, and aviator glasses; plus he has a personal collection of over 20,000 American movies.
Then there is the country itself, whose motto is “Powerful and Prosperous Nation” but has a nominal Gross Domestic Product of about $28 billion (that’s less per year than Tyson Foods). They hold regular elections which they claim are the most democratic in the history of the world. In the last election the government said they had been returned to power by a 100% vote of the population. In a later press release they said that they were disappointed because only 98. 7% of the people actually voted, but then, no body is perfect.
But don’t be too quick to laugh. They are also a little scary. They have the fifth-largest army in the world and more army personnel (per capita) than any other nation in the world. They also have huge amount of military equipment, including about half as many tanks as China (but with a population that’s 1/55th the size).
In other words, North Korea may be funny and easy to poke fun at, but they aren’t really anything to laugh at.
In March, the Cheonan, a small, highly maneuverable warship of the South Korean Navy, sank off the coast of Baengnyeong Island in the Yellow Sea. Evidence pointed to the ship having been sunk by torpedo shot from a North Korean submarine. An investigation conducted by an international panel, including the United States and using forensic science backed up the initial evidence and left little doubt about who was responsible.
This was clearly a provocation and, under any interpretation of international law, an act of war.
North Korea, or course, denies this. They have learned from experience that the UN has no stomach for real confrontation so they warned the world that if they are blamed for the sinking of the ship it could mean war.
Now they are trying to use South Korean's own citizens to support their claims. In a new twist to the art of cyber-warfare, the North Koreans have been hacking into PCs of South Koreans, and then spreading rumors and allegations that the North was not responsible for the sinking. The whole idea is to show that even South Korea's own citizens don’t believe the claims of South Korea. North Korea isn’t hacking these computers for money. They’re not hacking them for any military benefit. They are simply hacking into these computers, hoping no one will notice what they are up to, so they can do the old 'deny and evade responsibility' dance.
Kim Jong-Il is a five-foot tall package of pure entertainment. He can be unpredictable, bizarre and even comical, but don’t make the mistake of laughing.